How to Apply for Your UK Tier 4 Visa from the United States: An Easy Explanation

I scoured the internet HIGH and LOW to find an easy guide on applying for a UK Tier 4 General Student Visa from the United States.

And I didn’t find much.

Coming from the United States, you’d think it’d be easy since the instructions are in English…but as an educated person, I ran into several quandaries.

I hope this guide helps SOMEONE, ANYONE out there who is applying, as I certainly wish I had a little more guidance.

First, the facts:

  1. I am a native US Citizen.
  2. I applied for the Tier 4 General Student Visa.
  3. I applied from California.
  4. The entire process from start to finish took 5 weeks. Side note –> you can’t apply earlier than 3 months from your school program’s start date.
  5. It cost $850. WAY more than I thought it would, for sure.
  6. I did not go to a “Premium Application Center,” as it was an extra $235-$1,400 in addition to the Immigration Health Surcharge and original application fee.

Brief Timeline:

  1. Obtain CAS Number
  2. Fill out online application
  3. Pay Immigration Health Surcharge (if applicable)
  4. Pay Visa Application Fee
  5. Make in-person Biometric Appointment
  6. Gather all documents
  7. Go to Biometric Appointment
  8. Send everything to UK Consulate (make sure to include return shipping label!)
  9. Receive return package with visa and all documents! Woo!



May 31– Applied for CAS Number (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies Number) through the University of Edinburgh online portal. This seems to be the only thing you can do a bit earlier than 3 months. This number is necessary in order to begin the online visa application.
June 12th– CAS Number officially available!  This made sense with the “3-month rule,” as my school start date is September 11th. With this number, I was able to start the actual Visa application.
June 12th– Started application on The application was a bit confusing, with some vernacular that I didn’t understand. I did a bit of googling and filled out the application slowly over the next couple of days.
June 14th– Paid the IHS (Immigration Health Surcharge). This was a shock to me, as I am fully insured in the United States. However, since I am studying in the UK for over 6 months, I had to pay it.
June 16th– Finished Visa Application and made the final payment (WOOF).  On this day, I also made an appointment for my in-person “biometric appointment.” The first available date that I could attend was a week later.
June 18th– Drove to Newport Beach (roughly 30-40 minutes away) to the cutest passport shop that prints UK-sized passport photographs. Took my photo & received two UK-sized passport photos.
June 23rd– Attended my in-person “biometric appointment.”  Brought all supporting documents and my printed visa application to this appointment. The closest location was about 15 minutes away from my house. The place was called an “Application Support Center.” It felt like a social security office. All they did was take my picture, collect my fingerprints, and stamp my application.
June 24th Gathered and sent all of my documents (see below) to the British Consulate General in New York City! I used the normal post office (USPS) to send my documents and included a USPS return label in my envelope.
June 26th– Received an email notice that my visa was delivered to the consulate, but I submitted a return label that was not accepted. I paid for a new return label (UPS) through an online service that was linked in the email.
July 3rd– Received an email that my application was successful and my visa had been printed!
July 5th– Received my return package in the mail with all of my original documents, including my passport, which now graces the most beautiful UK Visa! Success!

So the entire process took around a month- not bad at all! But there was A LOT of googling involved.

Breakdown of Cost:
-Immigration Health Surcharge: $301.5+ 9.05 (fees)
-Visa Application Fee: $449+ 13.47 (fees)
-UK Sized Passport Photo: $20
-Original Shipping: $24 at USPS
-Corrected Return Label Shipping (UPS): 34

What documents I sent to the consulate:
-Original Passport
-Signed Visa Application that was stamped at my biometric appointment. I wrote my CAS Number on the front of the application.
-One UK-sized Passport Photo
-A USPS return shipping label

Links I found helpful when applying:

Final Thoughts

-If I had to apply again, I would use UPS to ship my package and include a UPS return shipping label. I wouldn’t use the UK’s recommended shipping company, as they TOTALLY overcharge.
-I would obviously not include a USPS return shipping label.
-The UK-sized passport photo seemed a bit unnecessary, but I’m glad I included it. I’ve heard that people get away with submitting a US-sized passport photo, but I didn’t want to risk it.
-I had to google A LOT to figure out which supporting documents to send in. I had all of my bank statements and scholarship letters printed. At the end of the day, I didn’t include them. This is because citizens from the United States are considered low-risk nationals.

I sincerely hope this blog helps someone out there who is applying for their visa! It seems very confusing & overwhelming at the start, but it is ABSOLUTELY worth it!

Please let me know if you have any specific questions, as I’d love to help!!


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